What is Informatics?
The term informatics broadly describes the study, design, and development of information technology for the good of people, organizations, and society. I came up with my own definition asking myself and then answering the question, what Informatics Professionals actually do. The answer to that is that they:
- Collaborate with Knowledge Workers or Business Users to understand their needs (nurses, social workers, software engineers)
- Collaborate with User Interface Designers to help create User Friendly interfaces that put information at users’ fingertips (from any device, anywhere, anytime)
- Collaborate with Software Engineering Professionals to make sure software is flexible enough to meet user needs.
Here is that definition expressed in a different format
Informatics = Information processing + human computer interactions + devices (computers, tablets, phones) + software engineering + domain knowledge (nursing, user experience in general)
- Study of computational systems including data storage and retrieval
- Study of methods for acquiring, storing, processing, communicating and reasoning about information,
- Study of the role of interactivity in natural and artificial systems, through the implementation, organization and use of computer hardware, software and other resources.
In a nutshell, Informatics is about User Research, User Experience, User Experience Design, Human-Computer Interaction and Human Data Interaction. Let’s look at them in more detail.
You maybe wondering why I chose Informatics as my major even though I am deeply interested in Psychology and Neuroscience. I decided to answer that using an FAQ format.
What drew you to the Informatics major and how would this choice advance your intellectual growth and career development?
My interest is in the experiences of human beings. My knowledge in psychology and neuroscience-inspired me to work towards solution-based platforms for users. I found that I wanted to apply the teachings of these fields into something tangible and impactful using technology. The fact is even though I enjoy learning about theories of how people can learn to improve their own lives, I feel that the digital age has changed how we seek wisdom skills and how technology can play a role in learning, applying, and practicing the skills we need to live our lives to our full potential. Helping others navigate the technological world and bring joy/meaning to their life inspires me. Can I be the bridge between people who design UIs (User Interfaces) and people who use UIs? Would my deep interest in self-development and psychology help me think like a psychologist in the UX world? Why do I think more and more of our lives will be filled with virtual worlds and digital communities? These questions pulled me into immersing myself in this field. I want to play a part in developing human-centered methods and algorithmic management that would impact socio technical structures.
How has your education here at UT to date prepared you to enter the Informatics major?
I’ve been introduced to concepts about the human psyche, behavioral patterns, the impact of the nervous system, to name a few, all of which give me the ability to understand and empathize with the user. My experience volunteering in The Clinical Neuroscience Lab has given me hands-on experience in interacting with RedCap, a software that builds and manages surveys and databases. I’ve learned the interface quickly and communicated to my lab about what we can do to improve. I’ve proposed Google Tools as a supplement to gather data of our participants. I find myself asking questions about our participants’ user experience as they interact with us and the systems we are putting in place. My Psychology of Advertising course allowed me to study how consumers make decisions based on their emotions. I was able to learn about consumer decision-making processes. The R programming language course was intimidating but liberating too in a way. It showed me that I should explore things that are out of my comfort zone. The A+ plus grade in this course illustrated that programming is not as hard as I had imagined
What are your career plans?
I want to explore a career at the intersection of user needs, user interface design that will allow me to work with “knowledge workers” like nurses, social workers and business users, user interface designers and software teams. All of us in our personal and work settings spend so much time using electronic devices and at times get frustrated with how they are designed and how they function. Being able to play a role in delivering better user experiences sounds exciting to me.